Apple Earns 6 Stars In EFF’s “Who Has Your Back” Report For Protecting Your Data From Government Requests


In EFF’s 2014 “Who Has Your Back” report, Apple earned the maximum of six stars for all six categories measured by the privacy group. The categories are as follows: warrants for content; informing users about data requests; publishing transparency reports; publishing law enforcement guidelines; fighting for user rights in courts; and fighting for user rights in Congress. 

Apple shows remarkable improvement in its commitments to transparency and privacy, and its rating is striking because it had lagged behind industry competitors in prior years, earning just one star in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Warrant for content. Apple requires a warrant before providing content to law enforcement. Specifically, in its November transparency report it stated: “As we have explained, any government agency demanding customer content from Apple must get a court order.”

Inform users about government data demands. Apple promises to tell users if the government seeks their data. According to its soon-to-be-published policy:

Apple will notify its customers when their personal information is being sought in response to legal process except where providing notice is prohibited by the legal process itself, by a court order Apple receives (e.g., an order under 18 U.S.C. §2705(b)), or by applicable law or where Apple, in its sole discretion, believes that providing notice could create a risk of injury or death to an identifiable individual or group of individuals or in situations where the case relates to child endangerment.

Publish transparency report. Apple published its first transparency report in November 2013, indicating by country how many legal requests it had received, complied with, and how many accounts are affected. Apple includes information about FISA court orders under Section 215 in its transparency report.

Publish law enforcement guides. Apple publishes its law enforcement guidelines.

Fight for users privacy in courts. Apple is adding the following statement to its transparency report update, scheduled for May 2014.

If there is any question about the legitimacy or scope of the court order, we challenge it and have done so in the past year.

Oppose mass surveillance. Apple is a member of the Reform Government Surveillance Coalition, which affirms that “governments should limit surveillance to specific, known users for lawful purposes, and should not undertake bulk data collection of Internet communications.”